I wander toward the back of the bar to use the men's room, hoping I might bump into Gina back there near the washrooms. I have no luck, so I take a piss and head back to the bar. Bobby is there talking to the guys from Machine Within A Machine. They're laughing.
"Hey guys. What's going on?"
Bobby looks at me. "I was just filling them in on how the show in Sarnia went after they left."
I nod. "Ah yes. Our proudest moment."
"Yeah, that's funny shit," the singer (what the hell is his name?) says. He turns to Bobby and says "Dude, you should totally come up and play a song with us tonight. We used to do a cover of a Tremors of Intent song. Would you want to sit in with us?"
Bobby shrugs. "Sure, I don't see why not." He looks at me. "What do you say, Terry?"
I don't know what the hell to say, since singer-guy didn't ask me. I presume that I was not included in the invitation, so I would look like an idiot saying yes if they didn't want me. I go for the diplomatic approach. "Sounds good, Bobby. You should get up there."
"Naa, you play too." Bobby turns to singer-boy. "You'll get Terry up there on bass, right? He was a founding member of Tremors, after all."
The Machine Within A Machine guys look back and forth between them. "Um, I guess so, sure." The singer looks to the bassist and drummer, who would of course have to take a seat if Bobby and I got up to play. "That sound okay guys?"
They both shrug. The singer turns back to us. "Sounds good. You guys just be ready, and we'll call you up, sometime towards the end of the set."
"Cool," I say. "So what song are we going to do?"
"'Trying To Kick It.'"
"Okay, cool." Inside my head I start screaming obscenities at myself, but I smile like that's a great choice of song.
Gina comes out from the back, with her make-up done and a tight olive drab t-shirt stretched over her frame. She stops and looks at her band-mates. "Are we ready?" she asks.
"Sure, sure." says the singer. "Hey Gina, Bobby and?" he stops and looks at me, thinking hard.
"Terry," I say.
"Right! Bobby and Terry are going to hop up and do 'Trying To Kick It,' with us, okay?"
"Jeez, we haven't played that song in months. Do you remember all the words?"
"Yeah, no problem," he says. "And anyway, if I forget, Terry can help me out. Right Terry?"
"Yeah, sure. Ha ha, no problem there."
The band heads up to the stage. The bar is mostly full now, and the kids press forward to watch as Gina, Singer, Drummer and Bassist plug in, switch on, tap their mikes, then finally count in and start blasting out their first number.
"Come, Bobby," I say, grabbing my old pal by the elbow. "We must talk."
"But they just started-"
"Come on!" I hiss through gritted teeth.
We go to the back of the bar where the music isn't so loud. Bobby looks at me like I'm crazy. "What's the problem?"
"The problem is that I don't know 'Trying To Kick It.' What was that song off of, the third or fourth album? I'd been out of the band for like, eight years or something. We're going to get up and play a song that I don't even know. Shit, I'm not even sure I've heard it before."
"So why didn't you say something?"
"I didn't want to look like an idiot."
He laughs. "Well, you're going to look like an idiot now, aren't you? Come on man, I thought you knew every song ever written. You've heard it before, I'm sure. The chorus is like, 'Please tell me what to do/ I know I'm not through with you.' You know it."
"Do you have the disc in the car?" I'm starting to sweat with nervousness, worried about looking like a total asshole in front of two hundred bar patrons and one hot guitarist.
"No, I took a cab." He pulls a pen out of his pocket and grabs a napkin from a nearby table. "Look here, it starts out with a C chord?"
Bobby writes out everything he can remember, and we head back up front. We buy another couple of beers and watch as Machine Within A Machine rocks the joint. They're a lot tighter than when we saw them a few weeks ago in Sarnia, and the crowd is right into it. They must have a small following going, because I can see that a few people are moving their lips to sing along with singer-guy, who is belting everything out like he's Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. I watch Gina play, but I can't really enjoy the show as I keep studying the scrap of napkin in my hand with progressions and changes messily scrawled all over it.
Bobby and I have a few more beers, and about ten songs into their set there's a pause. Instead of the usual banter, the singer gestures to the drummer and bassist, and they leave the stage.
"We'd like to invite a couple special guests to join us on stage right now. Maybe those of you here tonight have heard of Toronto's own?TREMORS OF INTENT!"
There's a big cheer, and some of the crowd starts looking around. Bobby looks at me and rolls his eyes. "Oh Jeez?" he says.
"Right now we'd like to welcome Tremors drummer Bobby Metronome and the band's original bass player Terry to come on up and do a number with us. How's that sound to you?"
There's another big cheer and Bobby and I push towards the stage. "At least he remembered your name," shouts Bobby over the din.
"Asshole," I shout back, laughing.
We get up with Gina and the singer. Bobby sits down, grabs the sticks off the snare and does a quick roll. I sling on the bass and have to adjust the strap, because their player must be a good ten inches taller than me. Either that or he has gorilla arms. It's a five string bass, which I'm not used to, but I do a quick tune up and run a scale to get my feel for the instrument.
Gina hits the resonating opening chord, hits it again, and I command my brain to switch off. This is not thinking time; it's jam time, when the ears communicate directly with the hands to channel what is heard into what should be played. Call it Zen Jamming or something artsy-fartsy like that, I don't care. Play on instinct.
Bobby beats in the opening, and I leap in as well, thumping out the simple line, trying to compromise between what Bobby had scratched onto the napkin and what I can hear Gina playing. What do I care if it isn't just like they way it sounds on a goddamn Tremors Of Intent record? I have no loyalty to their legacy.
I watch Gina as we play, keeping an eye for changes and an ear open. Even though I don't really know the song, soon it's all coming easily. I know when the changes are coming, and I find myself improvising runs and fills, almost as if I know the song. By the time we reach the second chorus, I have a strange feeling about how effortlessly it's all coming to me.
Suddenly before my eyes is a vision of me sitting in my Dad's basement, strumming on a sticker-covered acoustic guitar, humming melody lines, writing notes in a creased little notebook?
Wait a goddamn minute. I do know this song.
I wrote this fucking song!
What the fuck? As I play I turn and give Bobby a look of furious incredulity. He nods and continues playing. He takes a second look at me and holds eye contact, then shakes his head to indicate he has no idea why I look so pissed off. Then he grins and shrugs, not missing a beat.
I turn back around to face the audience and pound out the lines, hammering the bass strings into throbbing engines of sex, rock and death. I don't know what they must have thought, as I burst into a vitriolic virtuoso performance, matching Gina note for note in the solo, even drawing the smiling attention of the singer. Even though I never wrote the words, I scream along with him as he sings "I'm trying to kick it! I'm trying to kick it! I'm trying to kick my addiction to you!"
We bring it to a big crashing close and the crowd goes nuts, screaming and jumping. I shake hands with Gina and the singer and Bobby does the same. Bobby pumps his arm in the air and everybody cheers. I grab the mike and shout "Thanks a lot. Hey, let's hear it for Gina and what's-his-name here." There's another big cheer and the singer laughs, figuring I'm taking the piss out of him for forgetting my name earlier.
Bobby and I hop off stage to continuing cheers. I figure this is what it was like all the time for all the guys in Tremors, hearing people scream until they couldn't breathe. I couldn't care less. I'm super-pissed off, but I've got stage buzz too.
People slap us on the back as we make our way to the bar and Machine Within A Machine continues with their regular scheduled set. We get up to the bar and the bartender gives us beers on the house, and the manager comes over a does a shot of tequila with us.
As soon as we have a second to breathe, Bobby asks me about the funny face I pulled on stage.
"Who wrote that song, Bobby?"
"I don't know. Rob (Tremors of Intent's rhythm guitarist) and Johnny (Tremors of Intent's singer), I guess. Why?"
"That fucking Rob," I fume. "I wrote that song. I played that with him back when we were just getting started. There were no words for it, but I played it with him. We never used it. Ten years later he digs it out and puts it on an album. That dick!"
Bobby frowns. He sips his beer. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. I know what I wrote."
"You're not going to make a big deal of it, are you? Because I'm pretty sure Rob and Johnny would fight that it's theirs."
"Whether they fight about it or not, they took it from me."
"So what are you going to do?"
I shake my head. "I don't know. What can I do now? Go to court over it? I don't know. I just don't know."
The band finishes their set not too long later and they come down to have drinks. Gina is as standoffish as before and I'm too bitter to be charming. I congratulate them on a good gig and thank them for the chance to play. Bobby decides to stick around, but I wish him a good night and make my exit.
Despite the late hour, I call up my guitarist when I get in the door. He's not home, but I leave a message on his machine: "Jason, this is Terry. I just wanted to say about that last practice, if you want to keep your songs, that's cool. If you don't want me to sing them, it's fine. We'll wait until you're ready to sing them yourself. It's your music, so it's your decision. That's all. I'll see you next week."
2006 Nolan Whyte